We first met Tony Zafirakos in our annual men's issue of RUSSH Magazine, and he quickly became our resident go-to guy for advice on natural wines and what to be looking for in our seasonal selections. Winemaking is in his blood - as the son of Ari Zafirakos, he was immersed in the practice from a young age, and founded Ari's Natural Wine Co. with his father in 2016.
"Ari learnt how to make wine in his home village in Greece, the methodology is very old and traditional," Zafirakos explains. "It is our firm belief that following these traditional methods gives the best results." With an ethos grounded in producing natural wines, Ari's Natural Wine Co. believes in making wine slowly, carefully and thoughtfully. "We don’t use pumps or any big machinery. In fact, from harvesting through to bottling we process everything by hand with no electricity used."
An average day for Zafirakos begins at daybreak. "I wake up at sunrise, meet the team at our local café near the winery and plan the day. Depending on the time of year we have different tasks to get done and that’s always changing, and this seasonal nature keeps things interesting," he explains. "We’ll then go out to the farm where the winery is and get to work. We try to do the most labour intensive stuff first and then leave the more enjoyable work to after lunch when we will typically do some trial blends and taste through a few barrels. We’ve got a great little tasting spot on the farm which is just magic at golden hour."
Below, we asked Zafirakos to round up his top picks for spring weather wine drinking.
Ari’s Natural Wine Co. Sparkling 2019
Varietal: Chardonnay and Fiano.
Why it works for spring? Fresh, floral, this white natural bubbly is perfect sunny day drinking. Serve cold.
Wine name: Ari’s Natural Wine Co Pata Trava 2019
Varietal: Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir
Why it works for spring? Also a natural sparkling, or 'pet nat', this rosé style is a bit more funky and interesting.
Wine name: Ari’s Natural Wine Co Pink 2019
Varietal: Shiraz / Grenache rosé
Why it works for spring? I love a rosé with good mouth feel and complexity. This one is fruity but dry – think red berries with crisp watermelon vibes.
Wine name: Ari’s Natural Wine Co Little Red 2019
Varietal? Pinot Noir and Chambourcin
Why it works for spring? When you’ve had enough pet nats and rosés, a briefly chilled (30 minutes in the fridge) light red will do the trick. Great for a spring picnic.
Wine name: Ari’s Natural Wine Co Retsini 2019
Varietal? Chardonnay fermented with pine resin.
Why it works for spring? This one is the most exciting of the lot. This is an ancient Greek style of wine making, in which pine resin is added to the ferment that adds freshness akin to ginger and green mango. Can be consumed on its own or with food – in Greece it normally accompanies a lunch time mezze platter of dips, snacks and seafood.